Apple Becomes Most Valuable Stock Ever


appleStocks finished very little changed today as Apple (AAPL +2.63%) surged to a new high and there was excitement about a big deal in health care.

The market opened lower but recovered nearly all of its losses at the end of the day. The close, however, left the major averages holding just below their highs for the year.

Apple jumped $15.93 to an all-time high of $665.15, pushing its market capitalization to $623.5 billion. That’s the highest market capitalization ever, beating a $619 billion market cap sported by Microsoft (MSFT -0.52%) in 1999. Microsoft, the publisher of MSN Money, was off 16 cents to $30.74, translating into a current market cap of $257.7 billion.

Meanwhile, Coventry Health Care (CVH +20.32%) jumped $7.10 to $42.04 after Aetna (AET +5.63%) agreed to buy the health-insurance company for $5.7 billion. Aetna rose $2.14 to $40.18. Coventry and Aetna were the first- and third-best performers among stocks in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index ($INX 0.00%).

Against the Apple news and the Aetna-Coventry deal was an earnings disappointment from Lowe’s (LOW -5.78%) and confusion about whether former Best Buy (BBY -10.41%) CEO Richard Schulze really plans to try to take the company private. Best Buy named Hubert Joly as CEO; he had been CEO of hospitality company Carlson.

The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU -0.03%) closed down 4 points to 13,272 after dropping as many as 45 points early in the session. The S&P 500 fell 0.03 to 1,418, and the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX -0.01%) was off less than point to 3,076. The Nasdaq-100 Index ($NDX +0.14%) scratched out a 4-point gain to 2,784, in large part because of Apple’s surge.

Facebook (FB +5.04%) shares fell to as low as $18.75, the first time the shares have been below $19 since the company went public in May. The droop, however, generated considerable buying and the shares closed up up $1 to $20.05.

The U.S. market was pressured at the open by Europe, where officials at the European Central Bank denied a story in Der Spiegel that the bank was thinking about a plan to buy unlimited amounts of the bonds of struggling countries to keep interest rates at reasonable levels.

But the U.S. market gathered strength once European stocks closed with small losses.

On Friday, the S&P 500 came within one point of its 2012 closing high of 1,419.04. It’s still within a point of that high. The Dow finished about four points below its closing high this year of 13,279.32.

The market has quietly moved higher since hitting a bottom in early June. The Dow is up 9.7% since then, with the S&P 500 up 11% and the Nasdaq up 12%.


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